Everything seems in place for this fall’s city council election in Palo Alto. We have 12 candidates running for four seats, we have campaign managers and candidate web sites.
But will we have candidates who are candid? Will we have an intelligent discussion on how to improve our city? Will the candidates specifically address the issues, or will they hide behind “on the one hand, on the other hand” types of answers we typically get from people who want to be elected?
I have some overall questions I would love to ask the candidates, such as can they understand a city budget and work through the numbers? Are they willing to make decisions based on finances, rather than on who comes to council meetings pleading for pet projects? And finally, will the candidates be simply a rubber stamp for city hall staff or can they exercise some leadership?
Those are for starters; here are some more:
• Infrastructure – a code word for sundry things like street and road repairs, park improvements, street lighting. Much work has been neglected, e.g., we are some $28 million behind in street repairs alone. What would you do, Mr./Ms. Candidate, to speed things up? Should we allocate more city money for improving our infrastructure?
• What are your three priorities for this city?
• Councils in the past have put together a list of priorities, but then the list changes the following year. What overall priority practices would you urge?
• City employee costs and benefits are skyrocketing, putting increased pressure on the city’s annual budget. Would you cut the budget? Would you cut the number of employees at city hall?
• Does this city spend too much and/or are we getting our money’s worth?
• What should the city do to keep its auto dealers in town and attract new ones?
• Please comment on the city’s new web site and what should be done about it, if anything.
• We’ve had two city council subcommittees work for two-plus years on increasing retail in Palo Alto and encouraging new businesses to locate here, but the committees have not had much success. What would you do to attract more retailers?
• Do we need more housing in our city or do we have enough?
• How do you feel about the traffic in town?
• Four years ago, and then two years ago, there was talk of reducing the council from nine to seven members, and also electing a mayor who would serve a four-year term. Candidate reaction, please.
• The City Council recently approved hiring an environmental-coordinator for $151,000 to focus the city more specifically on global warming locally. Do you agree or disagree with the need for such a coordinator?
That’s my list. I am sure residents have a lot more, which we can list below. Next goal: get the candidates to answer our questions.